Jillian Schumann earned her GED at 17, after leaving her high school in the south suburbs her sophomore year. College was always in her plan, so she took some classes at Columbia University in Chicago. Unsure of what she wanted to study and realizing that she was spending a lot of money on tuition when she wasn’t feeling motivated, she stopped taking classes and started working full-time in retail.

When she felt she was ready to start school again, her love of being downtown led her to Harold Washington College in the loop. She enrolled in the spring of 2015 as a part-time student and continued to work part-time.

“I really took my time to figure things out – I had no idea what I wanted to study or to do as a career,” she said of her first semester at HWC.

But a cultural anthropology class and a few sociology classes helped her discover that the social sciences were her niche and in her words, “where I fit in.”

In addition to being a part of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Jillian started working with the Transfer Center very early on because she knew she wanted to transfer out of state and would need scholarships to do it.

“Growing up, there was always a stigma in my community for reaching out for help, but as I went on in Harold, I was more open to reach out for those resources – everyone helped me so much,” she explained.

In fact, her anthropology professor Maria Fregoso introduced her to Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, two liberal arts colleges for women on the east coast. She said not only are they top-ranked schools, but they have great scholarship opportunities. Intrigued, Jillian followed up with Ellen Goldberg in the Transfer Center and decided she would apply.

Jillian graduated from Harold Washington College with her associate degree in arts in the spring of 2019, and just started her first semester at Smith College – with a full ride scholarship.

“My advice it to be proactive and use the resources you need right away. Don’t be afraid to reach out – faculty and staff are there for a reason, they are there to help you,” she encouraged.

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